Writing is an important part of graduate school, but sometimes writing projects can fall by the wayside as other responsibilities take precedence. Therefore, the summer months can be a great time to focus on writing projects because students often have a reduced course load, teach or assist with smaller classes, or run fewer participants in the lab. But how can students make the most of the months ahead? Below are some suggestions to help accomplish one’s writing goals.

Outline all your writing goals for the summer

At the beginning of the summer, create a list of the writing projects you want to work on. This might include papers you’re planning to submit for publication as well as departmental milestones (e.g., a qualifying thesis or a dissertation prospectus). Make note of the status of each paper—what you’ve accomplished so far and what still needs to be done. This will allow for a comprehensive view into where you are starting the summer. From there, it may be helpful to input this information into a calendar or strategic plan while planning out what specific goals you want to accomplish each week for each project. This may allow you to see what weeks will be busier than others and if any goals are unrealistic in terms of a timeline. An example of what a strategic plan could look like is below:

Image of a writing plan

Set a weekly schedule of writing times or “blocks”

Much like you would schedule meetings or classes, it can be helpful to block out chunks of time in your schedule where you will be solely focused on your writing projects. The amount of time you spend on your writing each week may vary depending on the stage of your graduate school career or the projects you want to accomplish. Similarly, how long each of these blocks last will depend on your schedule. If you’re not sure where to begin in terms of scheduling writing time, SPSP can help! Each semester (summers included), the SPSP Student Committee organizes writing groups held virtually via Zoom. Undergraduate and graduate SPSP student members can sign up to participate in a weekly three-hour writing session with their peers throughout the semester. These groups are a great way to build community and create a dedicated time to work on your projects.

Within each writing block, list your goals for that session

Before you sit down to write, take a few minutes to list out what you want to accomplish during that session and how long each task will take. This can help you stay on track and keep you accountable as you work through your writing session. This is where SPSP’s summer writing groups can help again! Group moderators create a spreadsheet for the group to use each week to list their goals for that session, At the beginning of each group session, members share what they’ll be working on that day, and at the end of the session, members share how their writing time went.

Embrace the “sloppy copy”

In other words, write first, and edit later. It can be tempting to try to write the perfect sentence when creating an initial draft, but this often results in frustration and limited overall progress. Focus on getting your thoughts onto paper, knowing you can always come back later and make the edits needed to polish your writing.

Celebrate your successes and make adjustments as needed

Writing can be a slow process, so celebrating both the small and large successes can be worthwhile, whether it be writing a difficult paragraph, submitting a paper, or having a manuscript accepted for publication. It’s also okay to make adjustments to your strategic plan or your writing goals based on how you progress through the summer. Graduate students can sometimes be overly ambitious in what they hope to accomplish, but they can also sell themselves short. Flexibility and patience throughout the writing process are necessary.